On a dark November evening at the turn of the century, three medical students make an unholy pact. For the young Hugh Meredith, it is the beginning of a nightmare that will pursue him to the grave – and perhaps beyond.
In the cellar of their narrow lodging house in Printer’s Devil court, and in a subterranean annex of the hospital, they begin to experiment with the boundaries that separate the living from the dead, witnessing events both extraordinary and terrifying.
Years later, when Hugh must return to Printer’s Devil Court and face his demons, strange events take clear that his youthful actions have had consequences worse than anything he could have imagined.
It’s the time of year when the nights start to close in and that makes it perfect for a traditional ghost story, especially a macabre tale in the Victorian style of M.R. James.
I have a slinky hardback copy of this book with the evocative and embossed dust jacket that feels pleasingly tactile. Once I removed the dust jacket, the black cover underneath was perfect for the story and was a nice mirror to the black and white illustrations inside which are a nice touch and evoke the types of storytelling that these days has fallen out of favour.
I’ve always found the immediacy of any story is linked with the touch (and smell) of a book – one of the many reasons why I avoid e-readers – is another reason why I found the story more effective, not in the form of scariness though. This book isn’t scary but to feel disappointed by that omission is, I believe to miss the point.
The book harks back to the days of the classic ghost story and the tale has the feel of its older predecessors, its sparse and wonderfully Gothic and in that respect it doesn’t have an effect on the modern audience that is would have done back then. Much in the same way that A Christmas Carol or Casting the Runes don’t inspire dread these days, the pseudo science of the book won’t take in the reader but does provide a pleasantly eerie idea from a less advanced time.
The story itself is short and neat with plenty of familiar nods to classic genre fare; dubious medical practises, fog enshrouded set pieces and Hill has chosen to leave some questions unanswered which is fine, a story works well when there are parts to fill in with one’s imagination. The characters feel a little under developed for my taste, I could have done with a little more about them not to mention their original motivations but it isn’t a major drawback.
Printer’s Devil Court doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of woman in black, I enjoyed it though, whilst there is a sinister thought or two to be had on the crazy minds of humans, I find it more of a tribute to the type of stories the horror genre is built upon. At 105 pages it’s a tale to be read in a sitting or two, perfect for the small amount of leisure time that the busy month of December helps. If anything the book is a little too short, another fifty pages would have been enough to give it a little more fleshing out but for what it is it’s a decent buy, just perhaps not at full price.